Friday, February 25, 2011

A Sort Of Homecoming

Back in 2008, when we came up with the idea for MilMo, we envisioned three big core features for the game. The first one was to be the adventure gameplay that you see in MilMo today. We released a basic Beta version of this in December 2009, and it would take another nine months to get to a point were we felt satisfied with the gameplay and for the team to complete the first big world.

Last fall, we began work on the second big component in the evolution of our game; Homes. We wanted everyone to have their own private space in MilMo, a place to withdraw for relaxation or chatting after a hard day's work adventuring. A place for designing and building - and showing stuff to your friends!

Concepts of furniture
From the very beginning we've had super grandiose plans for this feature set, but we didn't want to get stuck in pre-production for ages, so we decided to develop a minimum core feature set and get it in the hands of you players by really early 2011. This seemed like a big challenge, but we decided nothing was impossible.

Speaking as a game designer I was both petrified and thrilled by the gameplay challenges. How do you distinguish between the actions of sitting in a chair and moving it, without adding new buttons to the control scheme? How the heck do you move a window from one wall to another - in multiplayer - without pausing the game or showing editing gizmos? How to let players place small objects without adding complexity to the interface? We looked at several games with furnishing features. Some used intensely mouse-driven interfaces. Others had great gamepad driven furnishing gameplay. I decided to go with a light, context sensitive mouse editing mode and avoid forcing the user to learn new buttons.

Move it!
As development unfolded our Homes feature suddenly seemed to take on a life of its own and everything fell into place nicely. Sometimes MilMo just tells us how it wants to work, and we obey :)

After a fairly short development span - and a super-human effort by our lead gameplay programmer - we released the Homes feature earlier this week. The feature set is far from complete, but we've had tremendous fun playing around with it at the office and we hope you will find it as entertaining as we do!

What will your home look like?

So what can Homes do so far?
Well, you can design your dream Home by choosing from a great number of cool objects such as floors, windows, wallpapers, tables, sofas, chairs, beds and other furniture. You can place decorations such as clocks, paintings, lamps, curtains and carpets. Also, don't forget to check out our über cool music players. The juke box and the 80's ghetto blaster can play 6 unique songs each, adding that special touch to your Home. Pretty much all of the items come in all the different colors you like. Once your Home is complete you can trade Home Keys with your friends. This will let you visit them whenever you like, or throw a party at your own place. The possibilities are endless and there is a lot of fun to be had!

Classy, isn't it?

So what's next for Homes?
The most eagerly anticipated feature at the office right now is the ability to extend your home with multiple rooms. We want you to be able to build skyscrapers, villas, mansions, castles and even dungeons. This is something that we are planning to look into soon. We also have a whole new range of usable items planned, so stay tuned!

I also want to take this opportunity to introduce MilMo's new, epic Adventure: Air World.
Our company has a real head start when it comes to 3D browser gaming (a field of business that will become increasingly crowded, mark my words). This is a lead that we intend to keep. That's why we sometimes stop and reassess how we think about making games. Heading into the new year we decided, for various reasons, that we wanted to reboot the MilMo level design process and art direction.

As the level design team began building the new world, I established 6 requirements for them:

1. Shorter level load times
2. Better looking visuals (though using a lot less memory)
3. More fun gameplay (but no time from the gameplay coders)
4. More keyboard friendly areas
5. Faster development times (so we can release levels more often)
6. Improved rendering performance

The brand new adventure Air World
Some of these requirements tend to work against each other by nature. It is hard to improve rendering performance and load times while making the visuals look better et cetera. Doing everything at once is really hard. But our level designers came through and surprised me when they delivered on each bullet point above. Compared to our previous levels, the Air World maps load and render a lot faster and are more fun to play. We can make more of them in a shorter amount time than before and they look gorgeous! The level design team rose to the challenge by inventing a couple of brilliant new technical art workflows in the process. These workflows are now being investigated and adapted by our character art team with great enthusiasm.

Concepts for Air World

The scenario for Air World originated in a simple idea by our concept artist: What if Atlantis - the ancient and technologically advanced civilization - hadn't sunken into the ocean, but rather broken up through some sort of gravitational reactor meltdown, and started floating ever upwards into the air? Along with some Aztec, Mayan and Greek influences this idea really got our artists and designers - and our brilliant writer - excited, and the result is an awesome journey into a strange and wonderful sky kingdom.

Well, you may have guessed it by now - I'm proud of the Junebud Crew! I'm also overjoyed with this MilMo release and I wish you all a lot of fun with Homes and Air World,

As for the third big, huge and forthcoming gameplay element of MilMo, I will have to get back to you on that one ...



Today's post is made by Calle Lundgren, Game Director at Junebud. Calle has been making games for everything from the C64 to the PS3. He has also had time to help found a successful band and to start up Junebud! He has a hand in everything that goes on at the company - especially MilMo. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Hello, players.

Last week our community manager Sara and I went to Hamburg, Germany for the Causal Connect convention. Junebud sends teams to game industry conventions around the world, like many other game development companies do. Now, why do we attend these things? Good question. Let's use our Casual Connect visit as an example. We brought a cheap camera along for the trip, so enjoy the grainy pics.

Off to Germany! Ola at Copenhagen Airport before boarding.

Before we begin I want to establish some background. When you develop a game you go through a number of phases. First you need the idea, and then you need a of proof of concept. This is usually a prototype. After that you need a crack team of artists, designers, programmers, sound engineers and project managers to develop the game into a production version. In my experience, this can easily lead to what I call “bunker mode”. 

Hamburg at near eight in the evening, and we just found our hotel. We still had four more hours of work ahead of us, networking.

Time to head back out. Ola and Sara back in the hotel lobby, ready for a business meeting.

Bunker mode is when the team is so focused on making a good product that they cut themselves off from the outside world. Safe inside their air tight shell, developers find the focus they need finish the job. If you're lucky you get to emerge from your bunker with a piece of sheer magic, catching the world by surprise. If you're less lucky you may find that other teams made better versions of your game months ago. This is why business and community people need to stay updated at all times.

It takes a while to get used to each new convention. Sort of like a new game. Here I am, consulting the mini-map.

The Junebud Crew left the bunker as we deployed MilMo on Facebook in July of 2010. By then we felt our game was cool enough to take on the competition. That led to the next phase: finding good partners to help distribute the game. “Partners” can be marketing experts to help you raise awareness, or it could be someone who provides translation services. It could be full fledged publishers who specialize in licensing a game for distribution on one or more markets. Last, but not least, partners could be someone willing to invest money and help grow your company.

We crossed the John F. Kennedy brücke (bridge) every day on our way to the Convention Center. At 1,7 million people, Hamburg is a big city.

Another big thing at conventions is meeting other developers to share experiences with them. Bunker mode can be dangerous, because you isolate yourself and can lose track of what's going on around you. There are always excellent lectures held at game conventions. Casual Connect is particularly good for Junebud because it focuses on browser games and all kinds of social games. Because we needed to both do business and collect information, Sara and I had a tight schedule. While I spent my time in meetings, while Sara mined the different lecture tracks for useful information.

There's fresh business information disclosed at industry lectures. With long days, It's hard to stay sharp for several straight days of lectures. Sara did a god job!

A day at a convention might look like this.
  1. Wake up at the hotel.
  2. Have breakfast. Breakfast is really important, because it will be a long day.
  3. Head to the convention center. If you're lucky you can walk it, otherwise you may have to use a taxi, a tram or a bus.
  4. Arrive at convention center. Check that the schedule is up to date and that you know where meeting places and lecture halls are.
  5. Have meetings or attend lectures.
  6. Lunch (in Hamburg, we were given sausage for lunch, 3 days in a row. Hat trick?)
  7. Same as 5, but even more of it.
  8. At the end of the lectures, there are mixers being thrown. These are good places to have snacks and meet people, and they typically last about an hour.
  9. Get back to the hotel. By now you've usually worked your first 8 hours.
  10. Find a place to have dinner. Dinner is often with business partners, so you can discuss future projects.
  11. Make your way to a sponsored party. They are usually held in clubs and are for registered convention visitors only. It's a great place to meet people in a relaxed context
  12. Get back to the hotel. It's probably around midnight, or later, by now.
  13. Get to bed. It's an early day tomorrow.

    Me and Sara hit the club floor in style. That's right. Blue Steel!

    Lots of friends, new and old. Parties are a great place to swap business cards and meet cool game people from around the world.
We had a very good time in Hamburg. For me, one of the coolest things was to get to meet up with my friend Vlad Micu, web editor for Gamesauce. He also introduced me to my long time hero Ben Cousins, general manger of EA's Easy Studios, the man behind, among other things, the Battlefield Heroes initiative. We all got to sit down and talk about 3D browser games, free distribution and all the challenges and opportunities that come with that package. Very inspiring!

I always try to get a good breakfast. You never know when you'll get to eat again. We ended up given sausage for lunch every day. Ah, Germany.

At the end of the week we were pretty tired, and it was good to get back to the office. Sara has spent her time making a big presentation based on the lectures in Hamburg, that we will use to spread what we learned to the rest of the Junebud Crew. As for me, I've been busy following up on the exciting meetings. It's been nothing but new meetings, e-mails, LinkedIn and phone since.

After four days in Germany it was time to get back to Sweden. On the train home from the airport, at ten in the evening, we were both pretty tired.

Take care,



Today's post is made by Ola Holmdahl, game designer and CEO at Junebud. Ola's previous career includes teaching game design, doing game design and creating concept art. In a previous life he was a freelance artist and an academic (but not at the same time).